Alexonomic's Outlook for 2013: South America

Yes, the Brazilians are still the centerpiece of South American economic growth, yet there are competitors arising. While Venezuala faces a period of uncertainty with the potential replacement of Hugo Chavez, Argentina offers a renewed challenge to the Falklands under Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Alexonomic's Outlook for 2013: Europe

Europe reminds many historians of conditions during the 1930s. Economically depressed countries are embracing extremist political parties with racial divide, riots, and anger as the symptoms. Currently, most of the population is aware of the European debt crisis. Although a serious as the economic crisis is, the side effects of lower economic output can be more serious.

Americans and their Guns

To stray from the Predictions of 2013 series, I did an infographic of the gun control debate raging in the US, along with some statistics. The objectives of Obama gun control rules come plainly from the White House publication on the topic. As one can see, the proposed regulations are quite practical.

Alexonomics' Outlook for 2013: Africa

Egypt has often been the focus of news in Africa as of late. The removal of Mubarak and election of Mohammed Morsi has proven to be an interesting turn of events, but the excitement is far from over. Morsi symbolically removed ties from the Muslim Brotherhood, but that move hardly removes the influence the party has on the President.

A guide to Environmental Economics

Often, articles will be conclusions with a few supporting facts that will often sway the reader. I find this problematic for two reasons. First, the reader does not have the chance to fully understand the topic because no background is given. Secondly, the reader doesn't really have an opportunity to disagree with the writer's conclusion if the reader has little to no knowledge of the topic.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Gift of Honesty

As an accountant, I can see the act of gift giving through a raw technical point of view.  Credit cash, debit inventory as the gift giver engages in a physical transaction to acquire a new gift. Credit Inventory once the gift is given, but what account is debited to balance the transaction? The answer is relatively simple – happiness. Giving to someone and watching their face light up in surprise is an amazing sight to see. 

However, that is a typical and common point of view. Giving can also be done through other means, and may not be well received. The other means I am referencing is honesty. Our society has become complacent and passive; often one will choose the easier complimentary route of embracing one’s decisions and viewpoints with an agreeable answer while thinking the opposite.

Think of it like this. If a friend of yours decided to buy a car that they could not afford, but desperately wanted in order to attract a member of the opposite sex – what would your response be? Your friend obviously wants confirmation for this decision, and it is much easier to agree with their plan on payments for the car and maintenance. Or, you could choose another route, offering one line of disagreement that is quick and probably will simply turn your friend off from your opinion.

Or, the last option – giving a frank and honest answer on why your friend should not buy that car. Spending the time to explain thoughtfully your arguments and working through the issue. In terms of the example, discussing with your friend why using a material item to elevate status to attract based on false premise of wealth is simply not a strong way to attract a significant other. Not only that, the decision to buy an expensive car which your friend cannot afford will cause very real changes financially in their life.

Although this is the longer route, a real friend will give you honest well thought out advice when it’s needed. This is indeed a gift that is sorely missed in our society today, the ability to disagree with the direction of another person on reasonable grounds – and outwardly showing your legitimate concerns. The only reason a friend will outline their concerns is because they care. If your friend did not care about the outcome of your decisions, there would be no concern and hence a friend would simply agree with your decisions, regardless of the expected outcome.

Yes, sometimes you will encounter an adverse opinion to your decisions. Yet, hostility to another argument is no way to counter honest thoughtful statements that might be true. Instead, use the concerns to make a better decision.

Listening to a person and giving an honest opinion is a gift that is incredibly undervalued. In business these people are called consultants, and charge quite a bit for their services. In life, these are called best friends who charge nothing. The people in your life who give you the gift of honesty through sincere listening are the people who should be cherished and appreciated. 

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Quebec Protestors May Have a Point

I guess it’s been a while since I hit the keyboard. Not physically, that would be a terrible thing to do. I mean what did the keyboard do to deserve being hit? Actually my keyboard has been waiting for me to come back to type out my opinions, actually screaming; my keyboard is wondering what in the name of Zeus and the Olympian gods is going on in Quebec.

 There were actually confirmed protests in Paris, Taipei, London (UK), Berlin, Brussels and Copenhagen regarding the decision to increase tuition from the base amount of $2168 by $325 each year for 5 years.  The reason behind the international protest is Quebec attracts many international students, who are upset over the matter.  International students have actually become far more popular in Canadian Universities, as they charge them far higher tuition to attend.

The best part about this debate is the attack on the students.  Sun News posted a graphic of tuition rates across the country that was not only heavily biased and completely out of context, but it was heavily shared on social media to attack the protestors. Basically the graphic showed average tuition rates across the country, which Quebec obviously has the lowest. What they failed to show was everything else, or answer the question: Why does Quebec have the lowest tuition?

Quebec has a culture of social services which derives from a less capitalistic view of lifestyle. Citizens pay more taxes for (theoretically) better/more service.  Just compare Ontario tax rates to Quebec. The first bracket (39 020) pays 5.05% compared to 16% in Quebec,  the second bracket 9.15% compared to 20% in Quebec, and the last bracket 11.16% in Ontario compared to 24% in Quebec.  That’s quite a large difference. The extra money is supposed to go to social services such as education to make it more affordable for the general masses.  In terms of the students, tax rates should not have much of an effect, as tuition is 100% deductible. However, they will eventually pay for the tuition of the future – so they have a right to protest their future increased taxation which is supposed to limit their current tuition. Basically, improve a student’s cash flow now, in return for a higher payment in the future. Future value of money is always less then Present Value for the finance students.

Also, one should look at the fundamental reason for public education. The reason for subsidization, bursaries, and grants of the education system is to increase access, as education is primarily an investment in the future of our society. Limiting education limits the potential of society, creates a larger gap between the rich and poor, and polarizes difference sects of society.  This is the reason why Germany, after World War II, made post secondary education almost completely free – a revolutionary concept that arguably gave their society a vast advantage.

Now, we can afford to have the students keep paying these rates. What’s the reason for the increase? Unions.  Administration accounts for a majority portion of a Quebec University’s budget and as they have unionized and have the power to shut down entire schools, they have been granted their gross overpayments. Bureaucracy has taken over which means less efficiencies. Again, public unions and their powerful lawyers demand too much from taxpayers that simply cannot afford their ironclad pensions and payroll.

So what’s the conclusion? Support the increase of tuition. Why? That $325 per year really isn’t that much, and it supposedly isn’t going to the administration. More so to improve the quality of the Universities of Quebec, which are lagging far behind others internationally (besides McGill).  However, the reformation of education should be a fundamental debate in politician’s minds, yet it’s one often forgotten. We should look at the German model, and realize our flaws. Their dual educational system has a high focus on apprenticeships produces a more technically advanced society.  The humanity courses such as degrees in history, political science, recreational and leisure studies, film studies or a major in Italian Cultural studies should not be encouraged. Education for the sake of education is not a strong or good policy. Education for the sake of improving one’s skills, understanding and candidacy for a better job that can improve a society in a functional way is a far better basic view of why schools exist.

Again, I am not saying studying history or film is wrong; I am a bit of a history buff myself. However, we must differentiate between the abstract degrees, and the degrees that will support new business and economic development.

Support the increase in tuition as a temporary measure, but focus on the reformation of education from its core beliefs to its unionized restrictions.